Sunday, March 09, 2008

Sunday 15th May 1938

Summer idyll – perfect day. Fred Butler awoke me at 9 o’clock with a cup of tea and biscuits – and a letter which arrived by last night’s post. The usual invoice from Consumer Credit Corporation for the car - £4-9-7. I wrote out a cheque, drank the tea, nibbled biscuits, smoked a cigarette. A lovely morning, and a holiday! Today, Lois and I were to plan the route for a CHA Ramble which I’m leading next month.
To quote the programme:- “25th (Sat.) Foulness Island. Bring bathing costumes. 3 p.m. bus from VC”.

I packed my rukker. Stood in the lane. Blazing sunlight. Lois Vauxhall 12 (ours is a 14!) swept down the lane. She also had dark glasses – and my RNVR scarf over her fair hair, kerchief fashion. We drove to Foulness – a change for me to be in the passenger seat. Passed the barrier at Wakering with no difficulty. Mr Cook, landlord of The Kings Head, was amazingly helpful. The car could be parked in his yard; he’d expect us for tea. Yes, he could cater for a party, one day next month. After hearing his suggestions for a route we set off. Fisherman’s Head, then north along the seawall. I thought aloud, “Dark people are connected with tragedy, unhappiness and night. Fair people, with laughter, sunshine and day”.

The tide was in, waves driving at the edge of the saltings. We sometimes had to jump over small creeks. Once Lois, walking backwards to get a run, fell into another creek – and laughed like hell. The wind howled but the sun was hot at Foulness Point. Desolation; white sails far away; cry of a bird. We took our clothes off, put on our swimming costumes. (The seawall served as a division between the dressing rooms.) Walked gingerly to the water’s edge, wearing macs. Lois fell into the muddy creeks once, I twice. The tide was running in swiftly so we did not risk a swim.

But we found a battered, unwieldy boat at the head of a tidal dyke. I weighed anchor and worked her down to the sea, with a boat hook. Clear of the dyke, when the tide became too strong, I jumped overboard and towed or pushed Lois and the boat across flooded mud flats. The sun blazed and the birds cried and we saw nobody. Then I scrambled aboard and we drifted with the tide. Lois worked the boat along the dyke; the tide was already falling, inch by inch, when we reached the berth again.

We found a sheltered spot and lay in the sunshine eating our sandwiches, smoking, talking lazily, watching larks circling above, listening to their song. Hours passed. It was late afternoon! We splashed through the mud, laughing, to the shell bank. Plenty of shells but no sea. Whilst we lay in the sun the time had gone – and the tide! We dressed again, and walked on. For over six hours we’d seen no-one but each other.

Tea in the snug parlour at the Kings Head. Then – “Come” said Lois, “We must see the sun set!” She drove through Rochford and to Fambridge. We discussed each other. “We must be temperamentally suitable!” I exclaimed. “Yes” she cried, eyes on the road, “That’s going to make it worse for you!” “By Jove!” I laughed, “You’d enjoy making me fall head over heels in love with you – wouldn’t you?” She too laughed, even more happily, “Oh, I should!”

We neared the seawall at Fambridge. “Quick!” cried Lois, beginning to run, “It’s nearly gone!” A moment later we stood on the seawall and gazed as a blazing ball of fire sank perceptibly below the western horizon. Silence. The last flicker went. “Cheery-bye, Sun,” said Lois softly. “Till night, and night ends all things.” I quoted. “No” she said, “It does not. Night is just a restfulness. Everything will return.”

The day ended then, really. An idyllic day. Perfect.


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